Your Clever Toddler in Week 91: Mastering Tool Use
What your child learns this week
Your Child’s Brain in Week 91
As you watch your child shovel food into his mouth by the fistful, you might wonder when exactly you can expect him to be able to use a utensil correctly. Moreover, how should you present a spoon and a bowl filled with applesauce? Inevitably, more applesauce will end up on the high chair, bib, and floor than in your child’s mouth—so what can you do to help him succeed?
Just as there’s a transition for babies from crawling to walking, there is a developmental progression as children learn to use common tools, such as spoons, hairbrushes, hammers, and magnets. By week 41 of last year, your child was beginning to use tools. Here’s what we know about your toddler’s abilities now.
What the Research Shows
- feed himself with a spoon;
- use a spoon to “feed” a toy lion;
- brush his own hair with a hairbrush;
- brush the lion’s mane;
- use a hammer to pound pegs; and
- pick up an object using a magnet.
The researchers demonstrated each activity several times before asking a child to complete the task. The results indicated a clear spectrum of when toddlers gain proficiency at using tools.
The 9-month-olds did not use the tools as tools but rather as objects to explore.
The 14-month-olds took time playing with appropriate ways to hold the spoon or brush so as to complete the self-directed tasks of feeding themselves and brushing their hair. The “other-directed” tasks—tasks that were done to someone or something else, such as feeding or brushing the lion, pounding the pegs, and picking up the magnet—proved more difficult, and the toddlers attempted these tasks quickly and inaccurately.
The 19-month-olds completed the self-directed tasks quickly and accurately, and paused and planned as they sought to complete the other-directed tasks of feeding and brushing the lion. These toddlers attempted the hammer and magnet tasks quickly but without success.
The 24-month-olds completed all the tasks, only pausing to plan when using the hammer to pound pegs and the magnet to pick up metal objects.
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